Anywhere you hike in Sedona will offer beautiful views of the unique landscape that makes this part of Arizona so famous. Soldier Pass in Sedona is no exception, and we particularly enjoyed this hike for the numerous attractions along the path that made the whole adventure fun and incredibly worth it. In addition to the awesome views, this hike tends to be less crowded than some of the other renowned Sedona hikes.
Starting the Hike
Soldier Pass trail can be accessed from multiple trailheads. The most popular way to begin the hike is from Soldier Pass Trailhead which lies down Soldier Pass Road. This trailhead is gated and is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Soldier Pass trailhead can sometimes become crowded because the Devil’s Kitchen and Seven Sacred Pools are popular attractions near the start of the hike. Also, there is a trail nearby where offroading and Jeep tours are common.
We wanted to get an early start, so we began the hike at the Jordan Road Trailhead. This trailhead is not gated, so you can access it earlier in the morning and later into the evening. At the trailhead, there are restrooms. If you start here, take Cibola Pass Trail to Jordan trail, which will then tie into Soldier Pass trail.
The trailheads offer limited parking, so get an earlier start during busy times of year and on weekends. At the Soldier Pass Trailhead, you may encounter a line even an hour before the gate opens on busy days. If you don’t have your own transport or don’t want to deal with parking, there is a shuttle available to take visitors to the Soldier Pass trailhead. Learn more here.
A pass is required if you park at the Jordan Road/Brins Mesa trailhead. When you park, you must pay the day use fee at the fee station, which is $5 per vehicle payable by card. A pass may be purchased online ahead of time as well. You may also use an annual National Parks Pass.
If you park at the Soldier Pass trailhead, no pass is required.
Overview of Soldier Pass Trail
Hike Type: Moderate out-and-back or loop trail
Hike Distance: 4.5-5.5 miles for the whole loop – distance depends on wandering around the trailside attractions and whether you visit the cave.
Duration: 2-3.5 hours
What to Bring: Sturdy shoes, hat, plenty of water, snacks, camera
Hiking Soldier Pass in Sedona
Once you are on Solider Pass trail, you will first come to the Devil’s Kitchen on the right. This large sinkhole is quite impressive, as is the view of the peak behind it. From here, the trail winds around the side of the peak behind the Devil’s Kitchen towards the Seven Sacred Pools.
Less than half a mile past the sinkhole, you’ll see the pools on the left. Depending on the time of year, the pools may be quite full, or they can be empty. When we were there, each pool contained stagnant water and quite a few frogs and tadpoles. In the pools, we could see the reflection of the peaks glowing in the morning light.
We continued down the trail on a mission to find the Soldier Pass cave. The cave lies off the trail, and we will talk more about getting to it down below. From the cave, people often turn back in order to return the way they came. However, we recommend continuing up the hill towards Brins Mesa Trail. This trail runs along the top of the mesa, then drops steeply down towards Jordan Road Trailhead. If you parked at Soldier Pass Trailhead, finish the loop by walking Cibola Pass and Jordan trails between the two trailheads.
Soldier Pass Cave Bonus
If you find yourself hiking Soldier Pass in Sedona, stopping at the cave is a must. It is a small detour off the main trail, and it is worth the short climb. The turnoff for the cave is about 0.67 miles past the Seven Sacred Pools. This spot isn’t well marked, but you’ll see a faint path leading off the right side of the trail and a wilderness sign posted on a tree.
From here, a short walk uphill will lead you to an open slickrock clearing. Stay to the left side of the clearing and follow the path uphill. The path is faint at points, but as you continue up towards the hillside and you will see a couple depressions in the cliff face. The cave lies about 0.3 miles off the main trail.
When you reach the base of the rocks, you’ll see an arch on the left. To the right of the arch, there is a small log and rock stack that lead up into the cave. It requires a little bit of scrambling but is nothing too technical. Afterwards, many people return to Soldier Pass Trail, then return the way they came. However, if you want to hike the full loop mentioned above, return to Soldier Pass Trail and continue uphill to Brins Mesa.
Hiking Soldier Pass in Sedona makes for a great half-day activity. The hike is not very strenuous and the views are stunning. For much of the trail, especially along Brins Mesa, there is no shade, so we recommend going earlier in the morning during hotter months to beat the heat. As with every trail in Sedona, watch for rattlesnakes!